Monday, April 30, 2018

Evidence of cold fusion

Princeton's Plasma Physics Lab reported unexpected evidence of cold fusion over the weekend.

Triangulating the particle paths back to the source they determined it was caused by a collision between David Hogg and James Comey in front of a TV camera.

Installment 4.2: A young man who is full of himself

Michael Chelly had been called out at morning roll-call for a special assignment.  The other cadets had been released for the eight hour shift of foot patrol.  Technically the cadets were members of law enforcement but they were armed with trash bags, plastic gloves and “frog stickers”.  Sacramento foot patrol was not a choice assignment.

Michael had been called out for special assignment once before.  He had enjoyed it immensely and he was sure that his talents were finally being recognized.

Michael found the white, GMC Acadia parked in front of headquarters in the No Parking zone.  He impatiently looked around for the driver.

A fat, old detective pushed off from the shade tree he had been leaning against.  “What took you so long?” the man asked, not really expecting an answer.

Michael had taken a few extra minutes to gather his things.  He filled his water bottle and check his grooming.  It was important to have his body art display where each piece was highlighted but did not clash with any other piercing, implant or tats.  Michael knew that you could run into anybody here in Sacramento and first impressions were important.

Michael bristled at the question.  The detective was clearly a duffer who was too incompetent to do anything but chauffeur people who were important.

Michael decided that the right thing to do was to assert is dominance and then to ‘forgive’ the chauffeur after letting him stew a little while.

“You got sent to pick me up.  I am here.  We can go.” Michael commanded.  His speech pattern was a hybrid of Valley Speak and random emphasis and unexpected drawling of vowels.  It projected an impression of endless boredom and a lofty contempt for the little people.

The fat man pointed at the passenger door.  No way in hell was Chelly going to drive.  For one thing, Chelly had no clue where they were going.

Chelly could be forgiven for thinking Ralph was fat and old.  There were almost no fat people left in Cali anymore.  Chelly saw a large man and assumed he was fat.  He did not know to look for double chins and beer guts.  Ralph had neither.

Chelly would have been surprised to learn that Ralph was only five years older than he was. Ralph’s face was innocent of SPF lotions and was unadorned with LED or fiber-optic implants or tats or any of the other markers that were much loved by hip, young people.

Chelly was further thrown by Ralph’s choice of clothing.  Ralph was not wearing any kind of uniform.  He was wearing baggy cargo pants and a voluminous, nubbly tweed sport coat.  Chelly thought Ralph used the stretched-out pockets to carry sandwiches or bottles of booze.  Heck, everybody on foot patrol lifted food from the merchants…or so Chelly assumed.  Cali certainly did not pay enough for a decent life.  Extorting and stealing from merchants was part of being a cop.  But it was crass to carry so much away that it made your pockets lumpy.

Ralph drove quickly and well.

Chelly would never admit it, but it was exhilarating to ride in a private automobile after a decade of walking and riding municipal busses that stopped twice every block.

The combination of rocketing along at twice the speed limit and the icy blast of the air conditioning was sufficiently novel to silence Chelly for about five minutes.  And then he had to start talking.

Chelly assumed the big lump who was driving was stymied with how to converse with a social superior.  Chelly started talking out of misplaced sense of noblesse oblige.

Frankly, Ralph had forgotten about his passenger and was focusing on driving.  He was not worried about getting stopped.  Every private vehicle had a transponder in the roof-mounted shark fin.  His identified him as “Cleanup”. There was not a cop in Cali who was going to stop Cleanup.  He was focusing on missing potholes and road trash.

Chelly started talking about the topic that he was the most comfortable with, a subject upon which he was an indisputable authority:  Himself.

He started with his fifteen second elevator pitch and it morphed into a ninety minute monolog.  Ralph was treated to a running history of Chelly’s academic prowess, the people who thwarted his advancement due to envy, his romantic conquests, his tastes in music, the advanced social position and immense wealth of his family…. Classic motor-mouth diarrhea.

Chelly must have felt a subconscious desire to impress the old detective.  His monolog kept looping around and intersecting with his secret, special assignment down in Los Angeles.  By the end of the third intersection, Chelly had revealed everything short of his victim’s name and finger prints.

Chelly belated asked Ralph “What is the assignment?” as Ralph slowed and turned into a drive leading down, into a quarry.

“You have to identify a Jane Doe.” Ralph replied.

“Why me?” Chelly asked.

“HQ thinks it might be somebody you worked with in LA.  Forensics wants an ID before they roll a team out here for a couple of days.  They don’t waste time on stiffs who aren’t important.” Ralph said.  For him, that was a long speech.

Ralph drove down the steep, winding drive.  There was a pristine, crystal blue lake in the bottom of the quarry.  Near the shore a four door sedan was parked on the left side of the road. The nose of the car was pointing toward the lake.  The car had smoked glass windows.  The front window on the passenger side was cracked open about an inch.

“Just look in and let me know if you think the stiff is somebody you used to work with.” Ralph instructed.

Ralph parked in the center of the road a car length behind it.  Ralph beat Chelly to the car, primarily because he was closer to it. Chelly had to brush past Ralph to look through the crack.  He bent over to peer into the dim interior.

Next installment

Sunday, April 29, 2018


"With great power comes great responsibility."  -Uncle Ben, Spiderman's father figure.

One of the people I forgot to thank was Father Dwight Ezop.  He blessed the grape cuttings last week.  This is not an exact quote of what he said, it captures the thoughts his blessing triggered in me.

To "bless" something is to mentally recognize that it might be needed for special purposes.

Nearly all items can be used for good or for ill, even the most pedestrian of items.

Consider a hammer:  It can be used to build a home or to forge tools from hot iron or it can be used to smash or destroy.

Or consider a towel:  It can clean and bind wounds, sooth a fevered brow or wipe sweat from blinded eyes, or it can be twisted into a whip or used to gag somebody.
It seems likely that David had panpipes when he composed the Psalms.  They are almost impossible to make without a knife.

Knives can be used to cut food, to protect one's self or carve useful items.  They can also be used to intimidate and victimize others.

The hammer, the towel and the weapon don't choose to be used for good or used for evil.  That is chosen by the one who carries it.

Even instruments of torture and death can become symbols of hope and salvation when the tortured chooses to let God be the roots and we be His  branches. 

To "bless" something is to help us remain mindful that WE CHOOSE.

Grapes and wine are central to some of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

Let the wine made from these grapes bring joy, not sorrow.  May it forge bonds of fellowship and not foster hurtful words that cause injury.  May it bring comfort and never become a tool of the deceiver such that it causes us to forget our God-given mission, whatever that mission might be.

We pray in the name of God the Father, Jesus His son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Remaining grateful

It is difficult to have a bad attitude and be unhappy when you say "Thank-you" often enough.

One reason entitlement is so corrosive is that it destroys gratitude.  No gratitude means no serenity, and a constant state of fear and anger.

This post is a shout-out to people who have been extraordinarily helpful to me in the last week.

Susan Rombough

Susan jumped through hoops to get the Vidal Blanc cuttings to me.  I ordered them late on Friday and they hit my mailbox at noon on Tuesday.  Susan has been running Bunchgrapes since Lon passed on.

I ordered twenty cuttings and she shipped significantly more than twenty.  Yes, she can count...she used to teach school.  I cannot guarantee that she will be that generous with every variety that they sell.  Some are in very high demand and they probably meter those out with precision.  But she is like Lon, she hates throwing out viable cuttings at the end of the season.  She would rather ship a few extra and have super-happy customers (like me) than to have to compost them.

Chateau Stripmine
I don't have permission to divulge his name, but he shipped me some experimental cuttings before he knew I was writing about him.  He is a great guy.  He also told me that his wife does not mind if I reveal that she deserves much of the credit for Chateau Stripmine's position as one of the premier vineyards in Rosebud County.

How can you not like a guy who shares the glory with his wife?

My brother

My brother is an expert on all things "beverage".  I told him that I needed flexible, biodegradable containers to use for rooting grape cuttings.  A half-hour later I was the proud owner of 100, paper, wax coated RS22N-00055 cups.  The man knows his cups.
Filled with potting mix and with a grape cutting stuffed in it.

The taller ones with the parafilm (white) tops are the grafted vines.  One of the useful thing about these cups is that they are flexible and I can squeeze ten or eleven of them into a seven gallon, poly tree tub.  So far I have about 60 in cups and 50 stuck in-bulk.

David and Elizabeth Mestelle
They helped me find "package" bees even though the clock struck midnight.

Apiaries sell out of package bees by the end of March.  I was resigned to trapping swarms this year.  David and Elizabeth not only found somebody selling package bees but picked them up for me.

Turtlebee Farms
Turtlebee Farms supplied the package bees.  They are easy people to deal with. 

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get the queen out of her cage.  David texted me that the cage is not sealed with a marshmallow but a cork.  The bees will release the queen when it is closed with a marshmallow but even the Italian bees don't carry a cork screw.

Guess I will be suiting up and start working bees sometime today.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Mom got a new table

Mom's card table was a temporary fix.  That happened about two years ago.  I had discussions with my siblings and we were concerned about the flimsiness of the table.  Mom uses a walker and she "cruises" along the table to get to her walker.  It does not take much imagination to realize that it is going to collapse and take mom with it one of these days.

A bottom view of the new table.  No folding legs.  The directions suggested two adults and 30 minutes.  It took one adult fifteen minutes.  The key is to loose assemble first and then tighten the screws in steps.

The new table.  Mrs ERJ was instrumental in choosing THIS ONE based on reading reviews.

We added a tool pouch beneath the table for pens, remotes and other necessities.  We will have to find a more convenient place to mount it.

The new table is about an inch taller than the old table.  I don't know if that is a plus or a minus.  The clear disadvantage is that it has a sharper corner which might be a fall risk.

"Aging parents" labels added to appropriate posts

Frequent commenter Aggie reminded me that many folks our age are grappling with the issues associated with aging parents.

I went back through recent posts and added the label "Aging parents" to make it easy to find those posts by using the Search box that is in the upper, right corner of the screen.

And I thought that was a cliche

I got to spend yesterday afternoon and evening with Belladonna.  We ran into some of her acquaintances over the course of the evening.

At one point she offered the information, "I would go out with him, if he asked."

I was surprised.  I don't want to give anybody the idea that Belladonna is 'picky'.  Rather, Bella has standards and she applies them up front.

She does not have very much free time and she is not about to waste it on a scoundrel, a drunk, a wastrel, a slacker an abuser or a fool.  She has seen too many of her friends become emotionally invested into bottomless sinks and she is not going to open up her heart to somebody like that, not even a little bit.

Not too many decades ago three-quarters of the men between ages 16-and-30 would have fallen in the 'acceptable' silo but things have changed and the bottomless sinks outnumber the 'acceptable' risks.

So I was surprised when Bella casually announced, "I would go out with him..."

I asked "Why him?"

Bella looked at me like I was daft.  "I already told you.  Mr Terrific has a fishing boat with a trolling motor."


On a slightly different note, some of Bella's friends were debating the differences between "hillbillies" and "rednecks".

The winning definition was "A 'redneck' is a 'hillbilly' who now lives in a house with a septic tank."

Friday, April 27, 2018

Looks like I am in the trapping business.

It was only after I cropped this picture that I noticed that the vertical wire in the mesh is broken right between this raccoon's eyes.  I suspect that it was cut by 40 grains traveling at  1215 feet per second.  It is interesting that raccoons instinctively stop in the same place.

This is from a listing of organizations that advocates neutering feral animals and releasing them back to the wild.  I intended to drop off "my" raccoon as a gift to them.
Have you ever noticed how the PETA types and other borderline eco-terrorists use PO Box numbers.  It is almost as if they don't want gifts.

My parent's neighborhood is invested with raccoons.  The house next door is vacant and there is a colony living in the garage.  There are some marshmallows in the orange newspaper hutch.

Fake News Friday: 19 Crimes

The White House released details of a plan to simultaneously reduce the prison population and to reduce recidivism.  They labeled the plan "19 Crimes".

In the preamble of the plan, the White House praised Australia.  The White House noted the vigor and creativity the original settlers displayed as they first survived and then thrived in an extreme climate.

Citing Australia as inspiration, the plan is crafted to select career felons and to send them to an uninhabited continent and leaving them to shift for themselves and to create their own, civil society.

Journalists were puzzled.  "What uninhabited continent?" they asked.

Comparisons of Vidal Blanc and V. riparia L50-s cane sections

Two different sets of cuttings.  The shanks of the top and bottom cuttings are very close to the same diameter.  Both with Vidal as the top section and V. riparia as the bottom section.
I was grafting grape vines yesterday.  I was using Vidal Blanc as the scion and I was using a V. riparia selected in Minnesota.

I was grafting at the nodes to take advantage of the nurse-bud phenomena and to have a viable bud as close to the graft union as possible.

Two things jump out, the V. riparia selection does not have a diaphragm at the bud.

The other thing is that the V. riparia has much, much thicker wood.  I don't know if that is a factor that makes V. riparia inherently more cold hardy than Vidal but it can come into play in an unexpected way.

People managing vineyards use "formulas" to prune each vine. These formulas are developed at research Universities for each variety and growing region.  For example, they might use a formula of 20 + 10 for Vidal.  That means they leave twenty fruiting buds for the first pound of "prunings" and then ten additional fruiting buds for each additional pound.  Sometimes that morphs into "leave a minimum of twenty buds and then leave an additional ten buds for every pound of cuttings."

The goal is to balance the vigor of the vine with the amount of fruit that we are going to ask it to ripen.

The problem is that folks out working in the vineyard don't weigh the cuttings on a scale.  They estimate the weight visually.  If you have been calibrated on V. riparia (unlikely) or Concord (very likely) then you will grossly over-estimate the weight of the wood you are removing from a Vidal vine because the dried pith is no heavier than shaving cream.

Grape Rootstocks of interest for Michigan.  A V. riparia selection is listed third-from-the-bottom.

Installment 4.1: A simple janitor

Ralph Eli was a janitor.  Not a custodian.  Not a Sanitary Engineer. Ralph was a janitor.  He cleaned up messes.

The job suited him.  Ralph was quiet, both by inclination and personal history.  Words were not his stock in trade.  Cleaning up messes was.

Ralph grew up on a hard-scrabble, foothills, dryland “homestead”.  His dad worked construction and was gone for periods of time.  Ralph was the youngest of five children.  The next oldest sibling was four years older than he was.  All of the kids were home-schooled.

He learned early on to take his whippings like a man.  Attempts to explain or to dodge the blows made things worse.  The whippings lasted three times longer and the welts were all over his backside.  If, by chance, he convinced his father that he was not the guilty culprit, then his older siblings gave him a drubbing.

Each sibling left the family farm as soon as they could find a place to land.  Before they left his dad saw no point in buying equipment to make tasks easier when he had five kids.  After they left he figured that there was no point since there was just the three of them.

Ralph never bothered to point out that a house with three people in it takes just as much wood to heat as a house with eight people in it.

Ralph’s next oldest sibling left when Ralph was eleven.  Ralph’s dad was busted up when he fell out of the second story while on the job.  Medical care was spotty up in the foothills and Ralph’s dad relied on vodka for pain management.  Ralph’s dad was no much help around the farm after the accident.

Ralph muscled up quickly under the grueling workload of keeping animals fed, mucking barns, tilling gardens, hauling water, cutting, dragging and splitting wood.  None of those jobs encouraged him to talk.

He left the day after he turned sixteen.  His mother left two weeks later.

He found a job delivering auto parts on third shift.  He was teamed up with an old man.  Ralph was the “muscle” guy.

After a month on the job the old guy went on “drunk”.  The manager asked Ralph if he thought he could handle the delivery route until they found another old guy.  Ralph simply nodded his head “Yes.”

The next six months damn near killed Ralph.  He thought he was strong when he took the job but single handedly horsing crate engines and short blocks was almost more than he could handle.  The shop he worked for specialized in supplying engines to drag racers and industrial engines to remote oil fields.  The store-fronts he delivered to were never set up to receive 600 pound loads.  He used a hand dolly.

The manager never got around to hiring another “old guy”, nor did he ever bother to check to see if Ralph had a driver’s license.  The manager paid in cash.

Calexit killed the oil and racing business.  Ralph got a job as a janitor at a State Police post.  It was on third shift.  The hours and the lack of people who insisted on chattering suited him.

The accident happened two years later.

Ralph was in the weight room at the end of his shift when he heard the first shift Captain start swearing.  Ralph ambled over to the squad room to see what he needed to clean up.

The third shift Captain had hung himself.  He had tied off a length of lamp cord from the water pipes above the drop ceiling and kicked away his chair.  There was a laptop and papers on his desk.  He had been embezzling to make up some gambling shortfalls and figured the jig was up.

There was no love lost between the first shift and third shift Captains.  The first shift Captain was cursing because of the long-standing policy that all management would be moved out of the Post after a death.  In cases where malfeasance was involved, managers were either be busted back to foot patrol or retired at half pension.  Embezzlement was one such malfeasance.

Top management would have been able to cover up the embezzlement.  A few squad cars would be written off as totaled and sold on the black market.  It would be impossible to hide the embezzlement AND a suicide.  Especially when twenty-five State Cops were about to become witnesses.

The Captain walked back to his cubical and started calling the Post’s upper management to let them know what they were walking into.

Ralph stood on the chair and pulled a multi-tool out of his pocket.  He snipped the lamp cord close to the slip knot.  The third shift Captain fell to the floor.  The loop relaxed after the weight was off of it.  Ralph slid the 15 inch length of cord into his pocket.  He grabbed the front of the Captain’s blouse and dragged him into the weight room.

Ralph flipped the body so it was face-up on the bench-press station.  Then he plucked the 250 pound barbell set off the rest, lined it up with the ligature marks on the Captain’s neck and dropped it.

Ralph heard the first of the first shift crew coming up the stairs as he walked back into the squad room.

He tossed the dangling lamp cord, the papers and the Captain’s laptop (sans the battery) above the drop ceiling and replaced the ceiling tile.

Lieutenant Monica Lemoine was on maternity leave.  He slapped the desk drawer where she stored her laptop with a meaty hand and sprung it open.  Removing the laptop he placed it on top of the deceased Captain’s desk.  He doubted that the Captain’s password would work.

Time elapsed:  53 seconds.

The first shift Captain was interrupted after the first three patrolmen casually looked into the weight room as they walked past.  One thing you can count on cops for, they look around.

Two cop cars were “totaled” and removed from service.  The widow received the life insurance pay-out.  Middle-management was moved to other posts with no drop in pay or grade.  The head of the post was promoted.

Ralph never thought of words as his friends or his tools.  But the word was passed at the very highest levels, usually after a few too many drinks and only to the closest of confidants:  Ralph was the guy to call when you had a really sticky mess to clean up.

Ralph was still a janitor.  He looked like a janitor.  He dressed like a janitor.  And he still cleaned up messes although they rarely involved a mop.

Next installment